There was a nice study in contrasts when coverage of the US Masters cut from the stirring sporting drama being staged by Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen to show a final round leaderboard that had Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy both way over par and separated by just one shot. Pre-tournament favourites they may have been, but Woods’s performances ever since his return from scandal and McIlroy’s in this Masters seem to indicate that neither players’ games have remained untouched by the soaring fame that has accompanied their success. McIlroy’s public dalliance with Caroline Wozniacki is all well and good, but casually sharing a joking hug with Sergio Garcia – another perennial underachiever – midway through their third rounds because they had finally holed putts did not exactly tell of a player in absolute distress at his poor performance on the big stage. Woods, as we now know, has been bewitched by the bright lights for much longer than his junior rival and the effect is similarly taking an indeterminate length of time to shake off.
Now contrast the cluttered minds and confused directions of golf’s current prima donnas with the hunger and desire shown by Oosthuizen and Watson over the final stretch. Oosthuizen’s ability to combine his sporting competitiveness with personal serenity was remarkable for how sincere it felt, while Bubba Watson’s sobbing shoulders and outburst of spontaneous emotion upon sinking that final putt may be as affecting a sight as you’ll see in sport this year. There was a singular, uncomplicated purity about their duel for the Green Jacket, which came across palpably through the TV screen and endeared us to them. One can only hope that Bubba’s frank emotion and Louis’s sense of tranquility are not diluted by the attention that will be lavished on them as a result of their newfound status. These rookie Masters leaders, with their wide-eyed view of golf and dreams still intact, were almost more captivating than the established names this time around.